June 7, 2014 posted by

Detroit Iron / Hollywood Hoopla

Click image above to enlarge

Click image above to enlarge

Longer. Lower. Wider. That was the mantra of the American automotive industry in the latter half of the 1950’s. Of course, for most of us human-being people, only the wider and lower part apply when we reach our 50’s. But I digress. Back in those days advertising agencies would often employ animation to make their client’s automobiles seem more spiffy and desirable. Did it work? You bet your life it did! At least sometimes. Let’s take a look at a few spots that put the “car” into “cartoons”…

’55 Dodge

Buy a Dodge and be the envy of all the other traffic signals!

’55 Packard Clipper

Animated spot promoting Packard’s new torsion-bar suspension. When this commercial was made, they had recently merged with Studebaker. The once proud Packard nameplate died an inglorious death halfway into the 1958 season.

’55 Nash

The American Motors Corporation was formed with the merger of Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson in 1954. Not long afterwards, they became a major sponsor of the Disneyland TV show, and soon Mickey, Br’er Rabbit, and Jiminy Cricket became Nash enthusiasts. Our good pal, the very wonderful and talented Mr. Floyd Norman had this to say about these spots:

They were produced at the Walt Disney Studios commercial unit run by Phyllis and George Hurrell. Hurrell was the famous MGM photographer who photographed all the Golden Age movie stars. However, his wife Phyllis did all the work. She was formally Phyllis Bounds, the niece of Lillian Bounds who married Walt Disney.

While watching the live-action, it looked as though that stuff had actually been shot on the Disney Studio lot. I’m not absolutely sure, but some of those locations sure looked familiar.

I’m sure you already know that the characters were designed by Tom Oreb. Oreb was one of Disney’s finest character artist and the old man let Tom do whatever he wanted with Mickey and all the other Disney characters. After all, this was for television.

The commercial unit was located in G-wing on the second floor of the Animation Building. I know because I was right down the hall from these guys. They often used all the good Disney animators such as, George Nicholas, Jerry Hathcock and Bob Carlson.

Finally, Walt Disney really liked George Romney, the head of American Motors. George Romney also had a bone-headed son named, Mitt. I wonder whatever happened to that guy?

’56 Ford Spots

A series of short spots made by Playhouse Pictures in 1955 to plug the 1956 models. Animation by the Playhouse regulars including Phil Duncan, Bill Melendez, and Bill Littlejohn. All the voices are performed by Daws Butler .

DeSoto Contest

Made in 1956 by Playhouse Pictures. You Bet Your Life announcer George Fenneman is speaking. This is the only example I’ve found of Fenneman voicing a cartoon character and not just being the narrator.

’58 Edsel

Welcoming the Edsel into the Ford family of fine… flops? The Edsel proved that relying on consumer clinics to design products doesn’t always result in sales. Will man ever learn?


Now that we have succumbed to that siren’s song, we need to get insurance for our new Edsel. Animation by Michael Lah


  • Who made the Edsel spot? Same with the Allstate plug.

  • The announcer in the ’55 Dodge spot sounds like announcer John Wall from The Great Gildersleeve.

  • Another great article. I especially love the original Illustrations you’ve been doing for these articles. I think Floyd is right about the Nash spot- it looks it’s between the sound stages next to the animation building. I wonder where the outside stuff was shot on these? How far did you have to get out of LA to find a desert setting in the early/mid 50s?

  • This kind of big and large cars were a commercial disaster in Argentina, where people preferred compacts that these same companies were offering in Europe. The most popular car of all times is the Ford Falcon that was conceived as a compact but it was considered big.

  • One thing that made the “bigger is better” attitude work was that gas was a lot cheaper back then. Good luck finding gas under $3 a gallon in today’s world.

    Great selection of commercials, and once again I love your drawing.

    • Now I can see how that shaped my parents lives a bit.

  • Just played these for Chuckles Gardner, and he notes that the bass singer (represented by the center stoplight) is Thurl Ravenscroft. (also known as Tony the Tiger). This could indicate that the vocal group is the Mello-Men, with which group Ravenscroft worked for some time.

  • FWIW, in late ’55, Robert Lawrence in NYC had the Studebaker-Packard account, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the studio did the spot. Jerry Fairbanks was creating spots for Dodge in ’55.

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